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The Mill
Claude
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According to an inscription on a tree stump in the centre, this painting shows the marriage of Isaac and Rebecca described in the Old Testament book of Genesis. The couple dance with tambourines, surrounded by other figures reclining and enjoying the festivities. The flat landscape and expanse of water stretching far into the distance are imaginary, but inspired by the countryside around Rome, where Claude spent most of his life. Claude’s landscapes often included a mill and town in the background, under a naturalistic sky. Although a tower is also a common feature, this was the emblem of painting’s original owner, the duc de Bouillon (1605–1652).

This work and its pair Seaport with the Embarkation of the Queen of Sheba, painted in 1648, were among the first paintings to be bought for the National Gallery in 1824.

Key facts
Artist Claude
Artist dates 1604/5? - 1682
Full title Landscape with the Marriage of Isaac and Rebekah ('The Mill')
Group The Bouillon Claudes
Date made 1648
Medium and support Oil on canvas
Dimensions 152.3 x 200.6 cm
Inscription summary Signed; Dated and inscribed
Acquisition credit Bought, 1824
Inventory number NG12
Location in Gallery Room 15
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The Bouillon Claudes

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Two paintings by Claude, Seaport with the Embarkation of the Queen of Sheba and Landscape with the Marriage of Isaac and Rebecca, are known as the ‘Bouillon Claudes’ because they were made for Frédéric-Maurice, Duc de Bouillon (1605–1652), a French general in the papal army in Rome. They were completed in 1648 and remained in the Bouillon family throughout the eighteenth century. They even escaped seizure during the French Revolution, despite Bouillon’s successor being imprisoned in 1794 and his property confiscated.

Although documents survive to tell us these paintings were commissioned as a pair, the scenes belong to different biblical stories. They are, however, harmonious in the subjects they depict. Each explores the relationship between men and women, whether during a wedding celebration or because of a journey that brings friendship. There is a contrast between the bustling urban seaport and the peaceful countryside. The central activity of each painting is framed by either buildings or trees, with the sea or a substantial river in the background.

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